A long married British couple (Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan) return to Paris many years after their honeymoon there in an attempt to rejuvenate their marriage. Whilst on holiday they run in to an old friend (Jeff Goldblum), who changes the way the couple think about their love for one another.
Two glowing central performances and one effervescent support turn are just three of the many reasons to journey to the streets of Paris for Le Week-End, the fourth and arguably best collaboration between director Roger Michell and writer Hanif Kureishi.
Master thespians Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan capture every minor nuance, both light and dark, as Nick and Meg, British intellectuals who have sought out the same Parisian hotel room in which they reached the heights of passion many decades previously. Much to their annoyance, the room’s drab makeover ('Uh"...it’s...beige," grumbles Meg), sets in motion a speedy (and, to Nick’s chagrin, expensive) whirlwind taxi ride to find new digs.
The expertly staged opening sets the tone for the film with effortless grace. DOP Nathalie Durand and editor Kristina Hetherington vividly capture fleeting romantic images of The City of Light, but Kureishi and Michell are far more focussed on the increasingly fractious and not-so-romantic cab ride.
Layers of Meg and Nick’s entrenched dynamic are peeled back, carefully. The pair still enjoy light moments, but the jovial cheekiness hints at ingrained resentment; sex, family and financial pressures eventually come to bear. The breaking point is an out-of-character accusation of infidelity; it’s a raw sequence that Broadbent and Duncan, in particular, deliver with great skill.
Thankfully, this bare-knuckle approach to long-term love is not in service of bitter cynicism. Enter Jeff Goldblum as Morgan, a brilliant but giddy American author who bumps into his old friend Nick quite by chance. Pummelled by the personality of the Yank into accepting a dinner party invitation, Meg and Nick find themselves face-to-face with temptation (Meg is propositioned by a lothario) and truth (Nick turns a toast into a public purging of his sad circumstances). All the while holding centre stage is Goldblum, whose boisterous, quirky sense of character not only provides the bubbly yin to Nick’s anxious, ageing yang, but allows the woefully under-seen acting great to largely steal the second act of the film.
There’s no avoiding the brutal honesty of Le Week-End. Meg and Nick will be flesh-and-blood people to the older demographic who should flock to this film. Its insight should also resonate with thirty-somethings, for the way it deals with the existential angst of their parents’ generation.
Comparisons can be drawn between Le Week-End and the Julie Delpy/Ethan Hawke Before trilogy with good cause. It is not inconceivable that Meg and Nick are late-in-life manifestations of Celine and Jesse, whose deep intellectual, emotional and physical bond would follow a path that neither envisaged. Fortunately for both couples, the path led back to Paris, a city synonymous with love – complex or unburdened, real or imagined – and slightly desperate yearnings for 'life experience’ and deep connection; in that regard, it is the perfect setting for Le Week-End.
Watch 'Le Week-End'
Thursday 19 November, 7:50pm on SBS World Movies (ch. 32)
Now streaming at SBS On Demand
Director: Roger Michell
Starring: Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Goldblum, Olly Alexander